(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Sad Story of Taylor Mays and Pete Carroll

This was the most compelling story to come out of draft day.

It's the story of a loyal player, a popular coach, a decision to forego the draft (despite being told of being a top-15 pick), and the (relatively) disastrous season that followed. The first-round money is gone, but, more than that, so is the trust between a player and a coach.

There are probably more sides to the story than the article lets on, but at the end of the day football, including major college football, is a business. Because of deficiencies in the USC defense, Pete Carroll had to change Taylor Mays' defensive responsibilities after Mays had a great season the year before. Those changes left Mays somewhat exposed, and the player's beef is that despite numerous entreaties to Carroll about what to do to improve his draft status, Carroll's refrain was, "don't worry, you'll be fine."

As it turned out, that wasn't he case, as Mays went 49th overall, as opposed to going in the top 15 (as he was told he would the year before). There is a good lesson in this for all players -- you have to respect your coaches, but remember that they're there in college to win games the best way they can, and if you're a true team member you're going to play the position they ask you to play. That said, seek out many mentors and be honest with yourself about your skill set and your need to improve, because if you find the right mentors you're bound to find someone who will be frank with you and show you some things to work on.

That's not to say that Pete Carroll is dishonest, though. First, he was there to win games. Second, he had nothing to lead him to believe that by moving Mays to a different type of position that Mays' draft status would decline, especially because Mays is an unbelievable athlete. Carroll so much believed in Mays' athleticism and prior season's results that in his mind Mays was -- and is -- an outstanding player. If Carroll's guilty of anything, it may be that he didn't look at the way the NFL looks at things finitely enough to be as supportive as he could have been of a player who showed him loyalty by foresaking a top-15 spot in the prior year's NFL draft. Let's face it, if your school is a primary feeder to the NFL, you have to, as a coach, think of things like that or have someone on your staff who does. Call him your "career services" coach.

I hope that the two can reconcile. I hope that Mays uses his disappointment as a motivator to excel for the 49ers, allowing, though, for the doubting that there are certain things he needs to do better (as opposed to thinking that his athleticism can conquer all). I also hope that he lets his frustration subside and can forgive Pete Carroll, who doesn't appear to have meant him any harm.


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